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Fake News Thrives on Fears of a Robot Takeover

The motion graphics artist tried to explain that he faked the amazing robot video

Never mind AI beating us at chess or Go; what about bowling? It appears that AI domination starts with robots beating us at our own games. I’m not referring to chess or even the more complex game of Go. I’m thinking of bowling.

Motion graphics artist @TomCoben published a video last week showing an industrial robot bowl a perfect strike. Strictly speaking, the robot did not actually bowl a strike: It rocketed the bowling ball the full length of the alley, striking the pins dead-center, sending them all flying.

BowlBot 5000’s performance has had, so far, over 16 million views. That’s great for Tom’s Twitter feed but less great for what it says about our judgment as viewers.

As The Daily Dot points out—and as Tom tried to make clear well-before his video went viral—the video is fake. As a motion graphics professional, Tom wanted to demonstrate what he can do, not what robots can do.

But his video did not enjoy 16 million views because his motion graphics skills are impressive. It went viral because viewers believed that’s what robots can do.

This is not the first time AI fake-news has fooled so many. In June, another motion graphics firm, Corridor Digital, released a video depicting a Boston Dynamics robot accomplishing amazing feats before turning on its abusive creators. Eight million views later, The Daily Dot felt compelled to publish an article making clear that that video was also a fake.

AI hype—encouraged by too many sci-fi robots—has damaged our discernment. We don’t notice how improbably perfect the feats appear so we don’t suspect that, like all sci-fi, these films are made by humans to fool us.

The remedy is more discernment, both of what AI can actually do and what humans can do. We need more awe at the human mind and body and a lot less infatuation with AI-driven mechanical toys. Only then will we make good decisions about the role of AI.

Robots can, and will, perform many helpful tasks, but taking over humanity is not among them.

Also by Brendan Dixon:

Sorry, Wired: That “crafty robot” doesn’t write in languages it’s never seen The artificial intelligence industry is overwhelmed with title inflation and feat hype


Autopilot is not just another word for “asleep at the wheel” As a recent fatal accident in Florida shows, even sober, attentive drivers often put too much trust into Tesla’s Autopilot system, with disastrous results

See also: Top Ten AI hypes of 2018

Brendan Dixon

Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Brendan Dixon is a Software Architect with experience designing, creating, and managing projects of all sizes. His first foray into Artificial Intelligence was in the 1980s when he built an Expert System to assist in the diagnosis of software problems at IBM. Since then, he’s worked both as a Principal Engineer and Development Manager for industry leaders, such as Microsoft and Amazon, and numerous start-ups. While he spent most of that time other types of software, he’s remained engaged and interested in Artificial Intelligence.

Fake News Thrives on Fears of a Robot Takeover